SpongeBob SquarePants premiered on Nickelodeon in July of 1999. The creation of a marine-biology teacher, SpongeBob SquarePants is the story of a likable, rather naive sponge living in Bikini Bottom with his friends. SpongeBob is a cook at "The Krusty Krab" where he works with his neighbor, and sometime-friend, Squidward the squid. Patrick, the starfish, and Sandy the squirrel join SpongeBob in his many adventures. SpongeBob SquarePants attracts 10 million kids between 2 and 11 each week, making it the most popular cartoon for that age group.
After releasing a bunch of discs with random episodes, we now have the entire first season of SpongeBob on DVD, except for the pilot episode which couldn't be cleared due to rights. After hearing from some angry fans about the "double-dipping," I spoke with someone at Paramount, the distributor of the title. The first volumes that were released were targeting parents and children who wanted some episode of SpongeBob on DVD. This season set is geared towards adult fans, which is why it contains more adult-orientated extras. It's great that a studio understands they have two different markets for their product, and release titles accordingly. I've also been told that we can expect another SpongeBob season set sometime in 2004.
The video on this release is pretty nice, and is presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Colors are nice and vibrant, as they should be on an animated release, but on occasion the picture becomes a tad soft and it's as clean as it should be. There's a "Play All" option for each disc, a needed option when there are so many episodes on each disc.
There's a decent stereo surround track on this release. It sounds like the broadcast version of the show, if not a little cleaner. There are some nice directional effects used in these episodes (I'm a sucker for directional audio). It's not going to blow you away, but it represents the original material nicely.
The entire cast, Tom Kenny, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, Clancy Brown and Mr. Lawrence provide commentary on "Karate Choppers" and "Plankton!" Both commentary tracks are full of laughs, but not much else. I thought that "Plankton!" was better than the other one, simply because it contains a lot more information.
The Origin of SpongeBob SquarePants (10:07)
Steven Hillenberg, the creator of SpongeBob talks about the origin of the little yellow sponge dude. Hillenberg is a pretty interesting guy. Also features interviews with Joe Murray, creator of Rocko's Modern Life; Derek Drymon, creative director on SpongeBob SquarePants; Nick Jennings, art director for SpongeBob; Eric Coleman, VP animation development and production at Nickelodeon; Kevin Kay, executive VP of programming & production for Spike TV; Albie Hecht, President of Spike TV and former president of film and TV entertainment at Nickelodeon. This is a really cool featurette.
Recollections From the First Season Crew (5:52)
The crew look back on the first season and how the show came together. This features interviews with many of the crew members, as well as video that was shot when they were "working."
Everybody's Talking: The Voices of SpongeBob SquarePants (14:31)
The cast members talk about their characters and the voices they provide. It's a bit freaky seeing real people doing the voices of the carton characters. It just doesn't look natural...and it freaks me out a bit.
The Bikini Bottom's Up Tour
Woah! This is a HUGE area on the DVD. You can click on different areas of Bikini Bottom to go in for a closer look. When you're in closer you can click on an item and view a clip from the show. It's awesome, and no doubt took a long time to author on the set. You can explore SpongeBob's house, Squidward's house, Sandy's dome, and the Krusty Krab.
In the Key of Seas: Krusty Krab Karaoke (4:59)
You can sing along to these 4 songs with, or without, the vocals. SpongeBob SquarePants Theme Song (0:43), "The F.U.N. Song" (1:30), "Ripped Pants" (1:24) and "Doing the Sponge" (1:22).
Drawing the Goo Lagoon (2:02)
John Seymore, an artist for the show, draws the Goo Lagoon.
SpongeBob's 7 Life Strategies (2:23)
7 "life strategies" that feature clips from the show.
Violent Femmes Sing SpongeBob (0:43)
A music video featuring Violent Femmes singing SpongeBob.
SpongeBob ScaredyPants Music Video (1:03)
A short "video" featuring clips from the various episodes found on the disc. I found the quality of this to be a little poor.
SpongeBob Dancin' Pants Music Video (1:07)
An entertaining, but short, music video featuring the tune from "Jellyfish Jam."
Okay, I have to come clean with you guys. When I watched the first SpongeBob DVD, I didn't "get it." I thought this was just a weird show with things that didn't make sense, like surfing underwater and fire, and now I'm a SpongeBob fan. I sing the theme song, and I laugh at his antics. Yes, I look forward to SpongeBob DVD releases.
This was a nice release of the first season. All the first season episode, new extras and some extras from the previous releases. If you know a big kid who likes SpongeBob, think about picking this set up for Christmas.